House and Senate approves $66.2M for ONCHIT funding

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The U.S. House and Senate conference committee has approved approximately $66.2 million in funding for the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONCHIT) this fiscal year, according to a Senate-House conference report.

The Labor-HHS-Education, HR 3043, which provides funding for ONCHIT, was originally bundled with the Department of Defense appropriations bill but was separated Friday after Senate Democrats failed to obtain the required 60 votes to keep the two bills combined (46-47).

After receiving Senate approval (56-37), the House passed (264-141) the bill last week, but without enough votes to override a presidential veto. The bill now goes to President Bush for consideration. However, he has threatened to veto it because HHS spending would exceed his budget by $9.8 billion, reported CQ Today.

According to the House Appropriations Committee’s report on the bill, funding for health IT did not increase because of concerns that ONCHIT “has yet to develop a detailed and integrated implementation plan for achieving the health information technology program’s strategic goals” as recommended by the Government Accountability Office.

The committee asked HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt to provide a strategic plan by March 1, 2008.

The report, the committee also asked HHS to develop a “privacy and security framework that will establish trust among consumers and users of electronic personal health information and will govern all efforts to advance electronic health information exchange.” The committee identified elements it wants to see in the framework, such as allowing individuals to have a say in who accesses their information and how it is used.